WASHINGTON ― In standing by President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have tried to avoid accusing Christine Blasey Ford of lying about her account of sexual assault as a teenager in the early 1980s. Instead, they’ve subtly adopted another theory: that someone assaulted Blasey, but it wasn’t Brett Kavanaugh.
“I do believe something happened to her, I don’t know when and where, but I don’t believe it was Brett Kavanaugh,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Friday.
“I do believe that something very, very, very bad happened to Dr. Ford, and I am very sorry,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said Friday. “But I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was involved.”
Blasey went before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and said she was certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. She said Kavanaugh, now a federal judge and nominee for the Supreme Court, had pinned her on a bed and covered her mouth, trying to remove her clothes, but that she got away when his friend, Mark Judge, jumped on them.
Blasey’s hourslong testimony, in which she answered queries from Democratic senators and a woman prosecutor hired by Republicans to do their questioning, was widely considered credible.
Dismissing her entirely would require saying a psychologist who spoke with emotion about sexual assault was a fraud. But Kavanaugh allies had already begun laying the groundwork for an alternative ― that she was simply mistaken about who assaulted her. And even when she said she was sure that was not the case, Republicans stuck with it.
The idea of a Kavanaugh doppelgänger was floated in a Washington Post column and a Wall Street Journal editorial board column earlier this month. But it was taken to an extreme when Ed Whelan, a conservative lawyer and friend of Kavanaugh, posted a series of tweets detailing his theory that someone else assaulted Blasey, complete with identifying details about the man in question. Whelan later deleted his tweets and apologized.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee made an explosive charge ahead of Thursday’s hearing: that two men came forward to claim may have been the subjects of Blasey’s story. In a timeline of events distributed to reporters, they wrote that committee staff on Monday interviewed “a man who believes he, not Judge Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Dr. Ford in 1982 that is the basis of his complaint.” They received an in-depth statement from him on Wednesday. The same day, staff “spoke via phone with another man who believes he, not Judge Kavanuagh, had the encounter with Dr. Ford in 1982 that is the basis of her allegation.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Blasey about the two men who claimed they may have sexually assaulted her. “With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?” he asked her.
“100 percent,” she replied.
But other than that timeline and brief mention, the fact that two men came to the Senate Judiciary Committee to present themselves as potential predators got little attention.
“Two men came forward and said they may have had an encounter with Dr. Ford,” said Taylor Foy, spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), when asked whether the committee reported the men to law enforcement. “No one said they committed assault or admitted any wrongdoing.”
Even in the case of wrongdoing, it’s unlikely they would face criminal charges. At the time of the alleged assault, it likely would have been classified as a misdemeanor with a statute of limitations of a year, and Blasey has not filed a complaint.
Still, it calls into question how credible investigators believed the men really were. Democrats were not notified about the two anonymous men in advance. A spokeswoman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said they ”learned about the two anonymous men from the press when they forwarded the release.”
Ultimately, even without much reference to the two anonymous individuals, Republicans said they believed Blasey while dismissing her. Kavanaugh said he didn’t do it; they said they believed him more.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that she truthfully testified that she had had a sexual assault, that she had been assaulted sexually in her past,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said Friday. “I don’t feel that the evidence shows that Judge Kavanaugh was there that night.”
Grassley said he found her testimony before the judiciary committee to be “credible” and believed her to be “sincere in her version of the facts.”
“But I also found Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony credible and sincere,” Grassley said Friday.